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PETER v. ARRIEN

March 5, 1971

Margaret Kistler PETER, Widow, and Debra Lynn Peter and Carla Jan Peter, minor dependent children of Ralph M. Peter, deceased employee, Plaintiffs,
v.
Phillip F. ARRIEN, Deputy Commissioner, United States Employees Compensation Commission, Third Compensation District, Defendant, and Public Contracting Corporation, Intervener


Wood, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOOD

WOOD, District Judge.

 Plaintiffs seek to set aside an order of the Deputy Commissioner denying them compensation under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (hereinafter Longshoremen's Act), 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq., for an accident in which plaintiffs' decedent was drowned. Intervener, Public Contracting Corporation (Public) is a contractor for whom decedent's employer was subcontractor. *fn1"

 The case is before the Court on motions of all parties for summary judgment, there being no dispute as to any material fact. The Deputy Commissioner and Public argue that the findings of the Deputy Commissioner should not be disturbed since they are supported by substantial evidence on the record. Plaintiffs dispute this and contend that, on the contrary, the record conclusively establishes that they are entitled to compensation.

 In the course of the demolition, decedent operated a forty-ton crane with a ninety-foot boom which was at different times used with a headache ball and a drag line. The crane was operated from a causeway which extended approximately three hundred feet from the bank on the Pennsylvania side of the river. Reid had constructed the causeway from piers closest to the Pennsylvania shore which had already been demolished and from material excavated from the river bottom. The causeway was to be removed after the demolition of the bridge was completed and the river was to be restored to its original elevation. The causeway was often under water which reached a maximum depth of one-and-a-half feet.

 On September 11, 1961, while decedent was operating the crane with the drag line, the line snagged onto some lacing from the bridge span which had embedded in the river and the crane toppled into the swift moving current of the channel. Decedent was carried downstream and drowned before any of the other employees could reach him.

 Section 3 of the Longshoremen's Act, 33 U.S.C. § 903 provides:

 
"Compensation shall be payable under this chapter * * * only if the disability or death results from an injury occurring upon the navigable waters of the United States * * * and if recovery * * * through workmen's compensation proceedings may not validly be provided by State law."

 The Deputy Commissioner rejected plaintiffs' claim on the grounds that decedent was not engaged in maritime employment at the time of his death and that benefits had validly been provided by New Jersey compensation law.

 The Deputy Commissioner found that the accident in question occurred upon the navigable waters of the United States. Such a finding must be accepted if supported by substantial evidence. O'Keeffe v. Smith, Hinchman & Grylls Associates, Inc., 380 U.S. 359, 85 S. Ct. 1012, 13 L. Ed. 2d 895 (1965).

 The record in this case clearly supports the Deputy Commissioner's finding. Public contends that the causeway from which decedent was working was an extension of the land and that consequently the locus of the accident was not the navigable waters of the United States. However, the cases which have denied compensation under the Longshoremen's Act on the ground that injuries occurred on extensions of the land are limited to those situations in which injuries were sustained on piers permanently affixed to the shore. See Nacirema Operating Co., Inc. v. Johnson, 396 U.S. 212, 90 S. Ct. 347, 24 L. Ed. 2d 371 (1969). Public urges us to analogize the causeway in this case to the floating outfitting pier held to be an extension of the land in Travelers Insurance Company v. Shea, 382 F.2d 344 (5th Cir. 1967). In that case, however, the pier had been attached to the river bottom for a period of eighteen years and there was no evidence that it was to be dismantled in the future. In the case at bar, the causeway had been built by the contractor itself solely to provide access toward the middle of the river and it was to be dismantled as soon as the demolition was completed. It is clear, therefore, that the Deputy Commissioner correctly found that the accident occurred upon the navigable waters of the United States. See Michigan Mutual Liability Co. v. Arrien, 344 F.2d 640 (2nd Cir. 1965); O'Keeffe v. Atlantic Stevedoring Co., 354 F.2d 48 (5th Cir. 1965).

 Injuries to employees engaged in the construction or demolition of bridges are compensable under the Longshoremen's Act. In Davis v. Department of Labor, 317 U.S. 249, 63 S. Ct. 225, 87 L. Ed. 246 (1942), claimant, the widow of a construction worker who drowned while engaged in the dismantling of a drawbridge across a navigable river, sought compensation under the state of Washington's compensation act. The Court, while sustaining the applicability of the state act, found that the claimant could also have recovered under the Longshoremen's Act. The right of one engaged in the construction of a bridge to recover compensation under the ...


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